We’ve had a rainy June so far, after a brief warm spell in May. I prefer rain to heat at this time of year, but I’m watching my plants, wondering “why is it only the perennials and native weeds are lush?” So many of my plants have sprouted and stopped. They’re waiting for something, and I’d say it’s the sun. Still, with all the transplanting I’ve done, the rain and coolness have helped them take root, rather than die like they did last year. With that, pollinators haven’t been around a lot, with fewer flowers to choose from even if the blooms have been on time.

In the interest of serving bees (and having the bees serve us), I’m celebrating bees because NEXT WEEK, June 17 – 23, is Pollinator Week! (I had to use all caps because I’m excited about it.) The Pollinator Partnership has tons of information about pollinators and what we can do to be as hospitable to them as possible.

As the website explains, it’s not just about bees: “Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food.” Even rats have demonstrated a role in pollination.

Bees that pollinate are honeybees, bumble bees, and many solitary types such as Mason (or orchard) bees. To learn more about bees, check out the videos on the Pollinator Partnership website, put together by Burt’s Bees, Wild for Bees, and Isabella Rosselini.

Even more fascinating is the CBC Ideas radio documentary “Dancing in the Dark.” If you want to learn a lot about bees’ variety, language, complexity and sheer sophistication in a short time, listen to this! 

Why should you care about bees?

Because despite their ubiquitous presence, honey bees are suffering from a disease called “Colony Collapse Disorder” and there is no human intervention or cure for it yet. I’m a biologist by training, and so the basic tool I know of to do something that might help is throw numbers at it – and help by buying honey from local beekeepers, and not at the grocery store. We need to drastically increase our beekeeping, even with expected losses, to increase the number of bees that have a natural resistance to the disease. Those that do, survive and go on to make queens and drones that help increase the surviving population.

I’m pleased to share an event on June 18th: “Nos abeilles sauvages en ville : une diversité insoupçonnée en lien avec l’aménagement urbain”“Our wild bees in the city: an unexpected diversity in relation to urban development.” That’s in a few days. Members of CRAPAUD will be in attendance at the wild bees discussion, and they have hives of their own at UQAM. (A Google translation of that link can be read here.)

Two years ago, an apiary installed some hives downtown. The Ville is not planning on regulating the practice so count on seeing more of this, everywhere.


This past weekend, I created a Mason bee house. I first got the idea last year because of an interesting rant on the Montana Wildlife Gardener blog against honey bees (It’s interesting – here’s a link to all of his posts on the topic of bees.) I also received a comment about doing it, which spurred me to action. Here’s the process, in pictures:

log suitable for turning into a bee house

A good-sized triangular log of wood

Drill bits

Drill bits! Choose 1/4″ or 5/16″ and at least 3″ long, but don’t drill all the way through the wood.

hole drilled suitable for a Mason bee

I drilled in rows that cross-hatched along the long sides of the triangle. This is the first hole.

hanging the bee house log

Hung with a cup hook and a chain, with a notch on the triangle, on the tall fencepost in my garden.

Now, the Mason bee house isn’t finished yet, as it needs a “roof.” It also needs more holes (what can I say, except I drilled what I could in my drill battery’s short life). Only half as many holes are drilled on both sides as there will be when it’s done, but already I see activity around it. This is good!

UPDATE: the Mason bee house is occupied, and I have also seen it being used as a source of fibre for other bees, gathering material for their hive. They chew up the wood and build paper for nesting cells. This includes the wasps who are again succeeding in occupying the upper corner of my garage door.

Middle hole

Middle hole

paper wasp

and a fibre gatherer

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